More Alternatives to Tarot: Oracle Cards

I don’t actually have anything against tarot cards. I just haven’t picked them up yet, as I am intimidated by the learning curve of memorizing the meanings of all the cards. In the meantime, I keep stumbling across various other types of divinatory cards. Oracle Cards are a little simpler than tarot, which makes them both easier and harder to use.

Decks of oracle cards usually revolve around a central theme such as animals or chakras, and can contain any number of cards. Unlike tarot, they are not divided into suits or arcana. Often, the card’s meaning is in its very name, printed nice and straightforward on its face, such as “Rise Above Problems” and “Quiet Time” from my faerie deck. This means even a beginner can ask a question, draw a card, and get an answer without consulting a book or racking their brain for memorized symbols. But it also means that each card has only one meaning, which lacks nuance and may not make sense in all readings.

The most prolific maker of oracle cards is a woman named Doreen Virtue, who has churned out over twenty different decks. If you pick one up in a mainstream book store, there’s a good chance it will be one of hers. I currently use Doreen Virtue’s Healing with the Fairies oracle deck. I love the art, but found the companion booklet to add hardly any new information (except for some handy affirmations associated with each card) and to present a tone and worldview that does not quite jive with my own. So, I simply use the text on the cards and my own intuition to interpret their meaning.

How to use oracle cards:

Pretty much any tarot spread can be used for oracle cards as well. I like to keep readings for myself short and to-the-point, so I favor one-card readings or a basic three-card spread.

One-card reading – optimal for simple questions and general guidance

  1. Think of an open-ended (not yes/no) question that you would like the cards to answer. For example, “How can I dispel the restlessness I’ve been feeling lately” Or, “What avenue will help me succeed at my job hunt?” If you don’t have any questions at the front of your mind, simply ask “What wisdom would I benefit from right now?”
  2. Shuffle the cards. This is a spiritual moment of bonding with the cards and really communicating your needs to them. Try to be careful, but if a card jumps out of the deck, take note of it. That is a message for you. You can end your reading there, or draw another card as planned.
  3. Spread the cards out face-down in an arc in front of you. Hover your receptive (non-dominant) hand just above the cards, grazing their surfaces as you pass from one end to the other. When you feel the urge, reach down and draw a card.
  4. Flip the card over. Look at the words and art on the card and think about how they may apply to your question. If you cannot make a direct connection at first, think about the various associations you have with those words and symbols and how they might relate. If the card is drawn upside down, it may indicate an area in which you have a blockage, in which you need more work.

Three-card reading – optimal for a more complex situation, in which you need to understand the big picture in order to move forward

  1. Think of a problem you are trying to solve or a situation you are trying to understand.
  2. Shuffle the cards, while continuing to think of your problem. If any cards jump out, set them aside and let them supplement your spread.
  3. Flip over the first three cards, placing them in a line, left to right.
  4. Read your cards. The one on the left represents the past: the contributing factors that led to your current predicament. The one in the middle represents your current situation. The last card on the right represents the future. It could be the solution to your problem or the result of your coming actions.

Let’s walk through the example pictured above. My situation is: I want to find a mentor. The first card I drew, to represent my past, is “Kindness.” This brings to mind how I have seen kindness, advice, and support from a more experienced individual help my peers bloom into confident, competent professionals and how I have envied that opportunity for myself. “Self Reliance”  is my present state of being. I’m feeling a little alone, directionless, and like I have to hold myself up with little support. My future card is “New Location.” This could refer to changing jobs, moving house, or even metaphorically looking at the perspective from a different stand point. As it turns out, I am moving to a new apartment imminently. Perhaps I’ll meet a new neighbor, join a meet up in my new part of town, or even just find new bravery to talk to the people right in front of me all along once I have this fresh living space. The cards are open to interpretation, but the point is that they get you thinking about your situation in various different ways.

Have you used any oracle cards? Do you have a favorite deck? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments.


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